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Friday, September 20, 2019

Maglana: Nuisance candidates: who and what are we laughing at?


ONE of the advantages of living with a professor who teaches literature and creative writing is that you get to have lecturettes-on-demand about things you vaguely remember from literature classes decades ago (you also get your grammar and pronunciation corrected frequently, but that’s another story).

Amid the rush to get ready for work this morning I had the temerity to ask for clarification about satire and was told (albeit in a slightly annoyed tone) that it's essentially a form of social commentary using such devices as humor, irony and sarcasm.

Apparently satire works when people know who or what it is that they are laughing at, such as when actors do a comedy sketch of another person.

I got to thinking about satire because of the flood of candidates that filed for national positions (president, vice-president and senator). Thanks to online newspapers, and Twitter particularly the updates of Mike Bueza it was relatively easy to keep track of those who had signified their interest to participate in the May 2016 elections.

If the reports of Rappler.com as of the afternoon of October 16 are current, 86 persons had already filed their candidacy for president, 15 for vice-president and 117 for senator.

A quick check with the Comelec website on the 2010 national elections figures indicated that there were 10 who made it to the certified list of candidates for president, eight for vice-president and 61 for senator. It is highly likely that more people filed but did not make it to the official list.

The significant number of those who are vying for national positions in 2016, recognized as requiring significant political, organizational and financial resources, is an area for future inquiry and commentary but for now I'd like to focus on the diversity of those who filed and their reasons for doing so.

When the names of those who filed in the first two days were announced by media, I must admit that I was among those who were amused by a few who came across as colorful personalities and who seemed to have unlikely reasons for filing.

Two of the presidential aspirants were Romeo John Ygonia of Benguet, who went by the alias Archangel Lucifer and was said to have been directed by his "master" to lead the country, and Allan Carreon from Pasay City, who claimed to be an intergalactic ambassador.

Presidential wannabe Jose Larry Maquinana came wearing a swastika on his polo, while Marita Arilla declared her platform to be “absolute monarchy” but filed for the presidency. Truth be told, it was tempting to join the ranks of those who wanted the above persons and others who neither seemed serious with nor capable of mounting a national campaign declared as "nuisance candidates".

They were laughed at, and derisive and dismissive comments were directed at them in mass and social media. "Crazies" was probably the mildest chide.

But then as I saw and heard more about the other aspirants, I wondered if the concern was really less about them, and more about us. After all, how different are the motives of Ygonia and Carreon from those candidates who run because they were ordered so by their family or clan to perpetuate their political rule (in effect continuing their status as "masters"), some of whom are "alien" because they had migrated and even pledged allegiance to other governments?

And yet we don't laugh at these types of candidates; many of them get elected. We can speculate endlessly about the soundness of the minds and motives of those who seem to have come from nowhere and yet are suddenly taking an interest in the highest positions of the land. But a number of them are speaking to the concerns of the day, many of which the more established politicians dance around or handle glibly but without substance.

Atty. Cancio Nicanor Guibone of Cagayan de Oro City filed for senator and wants to develop the Benham Rise resource and defend the country’s sovereignty.

Elizabeth Capular promises electrification, food security and the protection of media and is aiming to become president. Beneficio Rufil desires justice for the victims of Yolanda. Retired Navy employee Filomena Sisit, one of the women who filed for the presidency, wants to secure better pay for government employees.

Even intergalactic ambassador Carreon stands on a platform of protection of Philippine waters, free WiFi for all, and anti-corruption.

On the other hand, political analysts observe that it is hard to differentiate among the platforms of the top presidentiables, noting that they come across as parenthood and pineapple pie statements. Arturo Pacheco wants pursue statehood status with the United States for the country, honest governance and the legalization of four seasons.

We may laugh but at least he's more straightforward than the politicians who will have no problems selling our national patrimony via unequal treaties with other countries like the United States, and laws that let foreign economic interests plunder our resources.

Also, he just put up front what has long been ingrained in Filipinos via our colonialist mentality: to aspire for everything Western, even the annual divisions in their weather.

And what sort of system do we have anyway if 61-year old police retiree Romeo Plasquita from Leyte, who claimed that he had not received retirement pay for five years, deems it necessary to file his candidacy for no less than the top electoral position because “kung hindi ako presidential candidate baka hindi ako pansinin" (if I'm not a presidential candidate I might not be given attention)?

So have them declared nuisance candidates if we must but let's not forget that the definition of nuisance candidates--those who "put the election process in mockery or disrepute"--really applies more to those who run well-strategized and uber-funded election campaigns, only to make citizens lose faith in the electoral process afterwards by their mockery of the law and utter disregard for decency in governance.

And if the thought of the Archangel Lucifer and the intergalactic ambassador as candidates still trigger laughter I hope we recognize that we are really laughing at ourselves and this political system.

***

[Email feedback to magszmaglana@gmail.com]

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